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Tag: RSS

persistent.info: Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader

persistent.info: Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader

Google Reader dies this weekend. Mihai Parparita, a former member of the Google Reader team, has created a tool to extract all your data from it. You should definitely look into the alternatives. I am using NewsBlur.

Are browsers killing content syndication?

RSS and content syndication have never seen the kind of uptake that I would have predicted once upon a time, but syndication is essential to the people who do use it. So it alarms me when I read that syndication may be on the way out. I hadn’t realized that Google Chrome doesn’t support RSS in any official way, and that Firefox 4 is de-emphasizing RSS as well. Here’s the crux of the argument:

If RSS isn’t saved now, if browser vendors don’t realise the potential of RSS to save users a whole bunch of time and make the web better for them, then the alternative is that I will have to have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, or some such corporate-controlled identity, where I have to “Like” or “Follow” every website’s partner account that I’m interested in, and then have to deal with the privacy violations and problems related with corporate owned identity owning a list of every website I’m interested in (and wanting to monetise that list), and they, and every website I’m interested in, knowing every other website I’m interested in following, and then I have to log in and check this corporate owned identity every day in order to find out what’s new on other websites, whilst I’m advertised to, because they are only interested in making the biggest and the best walled garden that I can’t leave.

Google Reader now generates feeds

Google Reader will now generate feeds for Web pages that do not already have them. You can plug in a URL and it will figure out a way to track changes to the page and notify you of them. From a technology standpoint, I’m fascinated. About 10 years ago, I worked for a company called Alerts.com that tried to do this sort of change detection. This was before feeds really took off, Morbus Iff’s AmphetaDesk was probably the leading news reader at that time.

The company built custom scrapers for any Web site we monitored, and our strategy was to seek out deals with content sites to scrape their sites and generate news alerts for them. Let me be blunt: this was a stupid strategy, and I knew it. RSS was starting to take off, and any company with a real CMS can keep track of the new stuff that’s being published without any help from a third party. Even so, we had a number of large content sites as customers for these keyword-based alerts.

I was hired to work on the consumer-facing site, and my idea was to do the sort of thing Google is launching now — automatically generate feeds and news alerts for any site, not just ones that were our partners. Unfortunately we didn’t really have the resources to pursue that strategy, and after a failed acquisition by LifeMinders, things steadily went downhill until everybody got laid off.

It’s funny to see Google doing now what I thought would have been a good idea a decade ago.

RSS readers are for professionals

A lot of people are wondering about the relevance of RSS readers these days. These days, there are lots of ways to maintain a healthy flow of inbound information. Twitter is perhaps the hottest, but there are plenty of other options as well. And so a lot of people are wondering about the old standby — subscribing to feeds in an RSS reader. Read Write Web had a post this week, RSS Reader Market in Disarray, Continues to Decline. Dave Winer has taken the time to point out (again) that the river of news model is right, and the email client model is wrong.

And then this morning, I read the following in the Patrick Appel interview that I linked to in my previous post:

I get up around 8 am, check Memeorandum, and skim new items in my RSS reader until about 10 am. As I’m reading, I open around fifty posts in tabs for closer inspection. I then read through those tabs, delete most of them, and draft the best. According to Google Reader, I have 1,086 blogs in my RSS reader and have read 16,070 posts in the last 30 days. This is down from a high of about 32,000 posts during the height of the election.

If you’re a serious consumer of information from a wide variety of sites, there’s still no substitute for subscribing to feeds in an RSS reader. Twitter is great, but it’s not the same. And I think that’s particularly true if you’re a blogger. If you’re just linking to the stuff that people are all talking about on Twitter or that floats to the top of Hacker News, you may as well give up on your blog, as far as I’m concerned. Everybody already sees that stuff. You have to dig deeper to offer more interesting information, and an RSS reader is the best tool you can use for that purpose.

The future of syndication

What’s the future of RSS, Atom, and other syndication formats? I’m still attached to my RSS reader, but it sounds like a lot of people are giving up.

For example, here’s RSS reader author Dare Obasanjo on RSS readers that work like mail clients:

The problem is that the RSS readers I use regularly, Google Reader and RSS Bandit, take their inspiration from email clients which is the wrong model for consuming casual content like blogs. Whenever I fire up an email application like Outlook or Hotmail it presents me with a list of tasks I must complete in the form of messages that need responses, work items, meeting invitations, spam that needs to deleting, notifications related to commercial/financial transactions that I need to be aware of and so on. Reading email is a chore where you are constantly taunted by the BOLD unread messages indicator silently nagging you about the stuff you haven’t done yet.

James Snell says feeds are useful but feed readers are dead.

This seems to be the discussion of the week as far as tech blogs go, so I’ll weigh in. I like my feed reader, and I deal with the overload of unread messages by not worrying about it. Right now I have 1600 unread items in NetNewsWire, and most of them will almost certainly wind up being marked as read without being viewed. The important stuff I don’t want to miss is in specific folders that I check all the time. The other stuff I usually just let accumulate until I mark it as read. I’m OK with that.

What I’m taking away from this discussion is that I need to account for people who aren’t using RSS but still want to keep up with my blog. To that end, I’ve created a Twitter account just for my blog — @rc3dotorg.

Update: I’m using the la petite url plugin for WordPress to generate short URLs for use on Twitter internally rather than using a URL shortener.

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